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Saturday 17 February 2018
17 February 2018 - NEWS UPDATE
Renewable Energy

Communities to get more say on siting of wind farms

Communities will have a greater say over the siting of onshore wind farms, and receive greater benefits from hosting new developments, the Government has announced.

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Photograph: Good Energy

The package of measures will include a five-fold increase in the value of community benefits paid for by developers, and proposals that will require communities to be consulted earlier and more thoroughly in the application process.

This could mean that communities agreeing a medium-sized 20MW wind farm could receive a package of benefits worth £100,000 per year, or up to £400 a year off each household's annual bill.

Energy Minister Michael Fallon said the new rules will eliminate 'inappropriately sited windfarms'. He added: "Today, we are putting local people at the heart of decision making on onshore wind.

"We are changing the balance to ensure that they are consulted earlier and have more say against poorly sited or inadequately justified turbines."

The Government believes the current planning decisions on onshore wind are not always reflecting a locally-led planning system.

New planning guidance supporting the planning framework from DCLG will make clear that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override environmental protections and the planning concerns of local communities. It will give greater weight to landscape and visual impact concerns.

As part of the measures, the Government will make pre-application consultation with local communities compulsory for the more significant onshore wind applications, as is the case for national infrastructure applications.

This will ensure that community engagement takes place at an earlier stage in more cases and may assist in improving the quality of proposed onshore wind development.

Ministers will be writing to the Planning Inspectorate and councils immediately to flag up that new guidance will become available shortly.

Best practice guidance from DECC to onshore wind developers will lay down the higher standards expected in relation to their engagement with communities, and a new register will monitor best-practice.

Government will also assist local people to gain the skills they need to enable them to engage more confidently with developers.

The Government will be expecting the industry to revise its Community Benefit Protocol by the end of the year, to include an increase in the recommended community benefit package in England from £1,000/MW of installed capacity per year, to £5,000/MW/year for the lifetime of the wind farm.

Communities agreeing a medium-sized 20MW wind farm could therefore receive a package of benefits worth £100,000 per year, or up to £400 a year off each household's annual bill.

Communities and developers work together to decide how the money should be used – for example, to provide households with money off their energy bills, to pay for energy efficiency initiatives, establish local training projects or fund other community initiatives.

A new Community Energy Strategy, published this autumn, will set out how Government can encourage community ownership and investment in wind projects. A Call for Evidence on this strategy has been published by DECC today.

As well as this, a joint DECC/ Defra Rural Community Energy Fund will provide £15 million in loans and grants to rural communities.

Based on the latest costs evidence, financial support for onshore wind – which was cut by 10% from April 2013 – will be held at the same rate, in line with the stable framework for investment in UK onshore wind.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles will announce that new DCLG planning practice guidance will become available on onshore wind to ensure more local decision-making and greater consideration for local environmental issues like landscape, heritage and local amenity.

He said: ""We want to give local communities a greater say on planning, to give greater weight to the protection of landscape, heritage and local amenity."

Secretary of State Ed Davey said: "It is important that onshore wind is developed in a way that is truly sustainable – economically, environmentally and socially, and today's announcement will ensure that communities see the windfall from hosting developments near to them, not just the wind farm".

"We remain committed to the deployment of appropriately sited onshore wind, as a key part of a diverse, low-carbon and secure energy mix and committed to an evidence-based approach to supporting low carbon power."

Ecotricity founder Dale Vince criticised the policy. He said: “Britain has 40% of Europe’s wind resource and onshore wind power is the cheapest form of renewable energy available today. This is just another Government move against onshore wind dressed up as localism.
 
“The new planning guidelines introduced last year have already changed the balance against onshore wind. Planning approval rates plummeted to a historic low of 35% over the last year, half of what they’ve traditionally been.
 
“Will we see the same logic being applied to the new generation of gas plants and nuclear power stations? How about the third runway at Heathrow, waste incinerators, new roads or is it only wind power. This is a slippery slope.
 
“Let’s not forget, that we will all benefit from lower energy bills in the long term by investing in wind power and weaning ourselves off imported fossil fuels.”

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